This week on the Campbell Conversations host Grant Reeher is joined by first-term Congressman John Katko, who represents central New York’s 24th district.  The wide-ranging discussion covers the funding for Planned Parenthood, poverty in Syracuse, Katko’s effort to be moderate and bi-partisan, his campaign support from the Republican Party’s Patriot Program, and the Republican presidential field.

Note: This interview was recorded before Speaker of the House John Boehner announced that he would retire from Congress at the end of October.

Last time on the Campbell Conversations, we heard from the North Country's first-term Republican Congresswoman Elise Stefanik.  This week, host Grant Reeher talks with the Democrat who wants to unseat her in 2016, retired Army Colonel Mike Derrick.  Derrick is getting an early start and is trying to build what he calls "a start-up" campaign.  Their conversation probes for the most important differences between the two likely candidates in the general election, and Derrick's reasons

Elise Stefanik, New York's first-term congressional representative for the North Country's 21st district, is the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.  At issue in her campaign last year was just how moderate the young Republican would be when she reached the chamber.  Host Grant Reeher talks with her about her record so far, what she views as her most important accomplishments, and how well Congress is currently functioning. 

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

Republican House Speaker John Boehner traveled across upstate New York on Thursday, attending private golf fundraisers for upstate Republicans in Congress. About a dozen protesters came to downtown Syracuse to voice their disapproval with Boehner, Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) and legislation left on the table while Congress is away on August recess.


This year, the House of Representatives passed four bills sponsored by Katko including some to improve airport security.


Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News


Rep. Richard Hanna (R- Barneveld) was in Cortland Friday talking about aviation infrastructure, but solving any of those issues will be tied to extending federal transportation legislation, set to expire at the end of July.


David Keck is the director of flight operations and the chief pilot for McNeil & Company which leases a hangar at the Cortland County Airport. Keck said his biggest concern about the airport is the infrastructure.


Ryan Delaney / WRVO News

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner is calling on Congress to replenish the highway trust fund, to fix and upgrade the city’s interstates, saying the fund’s stability has implications for the future of Interstate-81.

Whatever the decision on I-81 in Syracuse is, money to rebuild or remove it will come from multiple sources, one those being the federal government. 

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand faces an uphill battle in getting paid family leave for workers into law.

Gillibrand, a Democrat, wants to make federal law the ability for workers to take extended time off for childbirth or to care for a sick family member. Employees would receive two-thirds pay while they’re away from work, paid for by a small tax to employers and employees, similar to social security reductions on a paycheck.

Katko lays out priorities for first term in Congress

Feb 18, 2015
Ryan Delaney / WRVO

Rep. John Katko will focus this term in office on mental health, security and poverty.

The first-term Syracuse area congressman told reporters what he wants to spend his time on. Those points range from promoting tourism to protecting the area’s agricultural sector.

Katko, R-Camillus, spoke in depth about improving Syracuse’s high poverty rate. He says in his position, he’ll look to be an advocate for decreasing unemployment and school dropout rates. "And there’s no easy answers, but raising the awareness is a start of trying to get a solution to the problem," he said.

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

As Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) is finishing up his first month representing the residents of the 24th Congressional District, he says he’s getting used to the pace and the politics of the nation’s capital.

Katko, joins a Congress that has the largest Republican majority since the 1930s.  And he admits that getting all the factions of the GOP to work together as one can be a challenge.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

Freshman Republican Rep. John Katko isn’t backing the president’s plan for free community college, but he says it’s a discussion worth having.

President Barack Obama proposed a free Associates Degree for community college students in his State of the Union address last night.

"Can we afford that? I don’t know. But should we talk about the affordability of college for people on a general matter? Absolutely. And I think there’s something there we can work with," said Katko, the congressman for central New York, afterward.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO file photo

How does Congressman John Katko suggest improving the productivity rate of the House of Representatives? By trying really hard.

Rep. Katko (R-Camillus) sees his role as a congressman to both write laws and assist residents of his central New York district. Katko begins his job as the representative of New York’s 24th Congressional District at a time when Washington has enacted a historically low number of laws.

Connectologist / via Flickr

Newly sworn-in Rep. John Katko has already attached his name to an effort to repeal the medical device tax.

The tax on medical equipment manufactured in the United States was tacked on to the Affordable Care Act as a way to pay for the health care overhaul. But it’s angered device makers, like Welch Allyn in Skaneateles. The company attributed recent layoffs to the tax’s impact.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Syracuse-area Rep.-elect John Katko’s congressional committee assignments will put him in a place to see a lot of action as the 114th Congress opens in January.

Katko got the assignments he wanted on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Homeland Security Committee. There will be a lot going on in the area of transportation, as the highway bill and the Federal Aviation Administration bill will expire soon. He will also be involved in discussions over the reconstruction of Interstate 81 through Syracuse.

Katko prepares for first term in Congress

Dec 29, 2014
John Katko/Facebook

There won’t be much change going from candidate John Katko to Rep. Katko after the Republican takes the oath of office in Washington, D.C. next month. The representative-elect expects the campaign style that led him to a 20-point win over incumbent Democrat Rep. Dan Maffei in November will be the model for his congressional career.

For former federal prosecutor Katko, that means plenty of town hall meetings, tele-town halls, social media, and just plain getting around.

Gino Geruntino / WRVO

Utica-area Rep. Richard Hanna will start his third term in Congress in January. But the 114th Congress will be a different dynamic for the 22nd Congressional District Republican.

First, Hanna will have two new congressional representatives in neighboring districts. Gone are Democrats Rep. Dan Maffei  and Rep. Bill Owens. In their place are freshman Republicans John Katko in the Syracuse-centric 24th Congressional District, and Elise Stefanik in the North Country's  21st District.

Hanna says he already given some advice to the newcomers.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News file photo

United States Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) is supporting the nearly $1 trillion omnibus spending bill now under consideration in Congress. One reason is the inclusion of money that will help municipalities fix broken sewer systems.

Schumer says negotiators were able to lock $1.4 billion in the final budget bill for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund that offers municipalities grants or loans to fix sewers.  

Heather L / via Flickr

A move to designate the Harriet Tubman Home in Auburn as a National Historical Park is nearing reality.

The proposal has been attached to the Defense Authorization Bill that Congress has to approve every year. Sen. Chuck Schumer told reporters Wednesday he was very pleased the New York congressional delegation was able to get the amendment included.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s proposal to change the way the military deals with sexual assault cases could come up for another vote in this month’s lame duck congressional session.

Gillibrand (D-NY) fell five votes short last spring of getting a bill passed that would overhaul military sexual-assault policies. But she says she wants to bring it up again, attaching it to a military authorization bill that has to be approved by the end of the year.  

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

A year ago, John Katko of Camillus was a federal prosecutor, putting criminals behind bars. Today he is congressman-elect for central New York’s 24th Congressional District.

The Republican's first foray into politics has led to a stunning victory over two-term Rep. Dan Maffei, a Democrat.      

“Anybody want to know why I’m wearing a purple tie?" Katko asked, opening his victory speech. "It’s a combination of red and blue because we all got to get together." 

He vowed to keep the promise he made on the campaign trail to work with Democrats in Washington.

Bernt Rostad / Flickr

Upstate New York lawmakers are asking you to put them back in office, but how effective have they been?  

You probably will not be surprised to hear this Congress is the least active in the nation’s history. In the past two years, they have passed 181 bills that were signed into law by the president. Norm Ornstein, a congressional scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, does not rate it very highly.

“This is an embarrassing and miserable Congress. Really one of the worst I've ever seen,” Ornstein says.  

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Republican congressional hopeful John Katko is criticizing Democratic incumbent Rep. Dan Maffei’s legislative record from his two terms in Congress as part of the latest salvo in a race that is getting tighter, according to some national political pundits.

During a news conference this week, Katko, a former prosecutor, pointed to a list of legislation Maffei has introduced in the 113th Congress.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO file photo

Rep. Richard Hanna, a Republican, is backing the president’s plan to try to root out an Islamic extremist group in the Middle East.

"I think there are some things in life you don’t have a choice," he said. "These people have declared what they mean, what they intend to do, through many different type of media and I think we have to take it very seriously."

Hanna, a moderate conservative from the Utica area, says the fight against the Islamic State militant group, or ISIS, should be taken to them, before it comes here.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News file photo

With election season here, escaping the volley of political ads that are the hallmark of political campaigns will only get harder. In response, New York Democrat Charles Schumer is helping lead a fight in the Senate to force outside groups funding those ads to disclose their donors.

The Citizens United Supreme Court decision dismantled the campaign finance reform known as the McCain-Feingold Act. Wealthy donors, unions and corporations can now dump millions of dollars into political campaigns, seemingly in secret.

Keith Allison / via Flickr

An effort led by the Oneida Indian Nation to have Washington D.C.'s professional football team change its name has gained more support from members of Congress.

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., sent a letter Monday to NFL Commissioner Rodger Goodell urging the league to take a stand for the Washington Redskins to change its team name.

Despite the national "do not call" list, the number of telemarketer violations has tripled in New York state.

Sen. Charles Schumer says that likely has to do with companies using computer-generated robocalls to target households.

Schumer has introduced a new bill, called the QUIET Act, that he says will strengthen penalties against companies that violate the rules. He says new technology is allowing robocallers to skirt the current laws.

"The robocall industry is blatantly ignoring federal laws, so we have to fight fire with fire," Schumer said.

Maffei, Hanna positive about State of the Union

Jan 29, 2014

Central New York congressmen are generally reacting positively to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address. Fellow democrat and Syracuse-area representative Dan Maffei said he agrees with the president that Washington should focus on creating new jobs and expanding economic opportunities.

Ian Lamont / Flickr

New York Sen. Charles Schumer says it’s “a good day” for upstate New York farmers now that there is a deal in the House of Representatives and Senate for a Farm Bill.

Congress is expected to begin voting on the bill later today. The five year farm bill, agreed upon in committees on Monday, reduces crop subsidies and increases crop insurance.

Farm Bills were first written during the Great Depression. This latest one took two years of negotiation.

Schumer, a Democrat, says the bill is especially good for small dairy farmers and maple sugar tappers in New York.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Syracuse-area Congressman Dan Maffei is introducing legislation to crack down on people tampering with electronic probation devices and to hold federal probation offices more accountable.

Maffei is introducing the Federal Probation System Reform Act, which he says will make it a federal crime to tamper with an electronic monitoring device, and establish a nationwide standard for responding to bracelet alerts.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

Rep. Dan Maffei told constituents Tuesday evening he shares in their frustration over the federal government's shutdown, saying there will be serious consequences if it drags on.

The Democrat from Syracuse even agreed with one caller's claim that Congress' inability to act was "disgusting."

Maffei voted with House Republicans late Monday night for a spending plan that would have, if the Senate had approved it, delayed the individual mandate portion of Obamacare for a year. While trying to strike a bipartisan note, Maffei laid more blame on the G.O.P. than his own party.

Brookings Institution

What's the problem with Congress?  Why can't it find compromises on the most basic issues?  In this edition of the Campbell Conversations, host Grant Reeher explores those questions with Thomas Mann, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the co-author of "It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional Syst